Latest Changes to Google SERP
Google is constantly updating its SERP (search engine results pages), and there’ve been a fair few changes lately. Here, we round up some of the new Google SERP features and comment on some lesser known existing ones. And – more importantly – what they could mean for you.
This one is potentially the biggest change to Google since its launch. Google has been testing removing pagination for search and transitioning to infinite scroll, with all results and SERP features on one long page. It doesn’t sound like much of a change, but since its inception, Google has rigidly had 10 organic results per page, with pagination for more results.
The overwhelming majority of impressions and clicks happen on that first page, queue the SEO joke – where’s the best place to hide a body? On the second page of Google! That joke may have met its end. With infinite scroll in view, there’s a higher probability that results beyond position 10 will see a boost in CTR. Users are so accustomed to infinite scroll from social media, this feels like an improvement to the user experience, and positive news for many websites.
Fundamentally, we all want the quickest result, so we expect the dominance of the top three positions to remain the same. However, for the rest of the results, we do expect CTR to change over time, as users become accustomed to this change.
As Google evolves, Ads become stealthier. Ads are now fully blended with organic and only marked by the word ‘sponsored’, which most users won’t notice. When you combine this with infinite scroll, you get blocks of Ads mid-page too, as organic only reaches what would’ve been the break between pages.
There are pros and cons to this. If you’re in the top organic position, you might see a reduction in traffic as Ads get a higher CTR (and Google makes more money). Conversely, if you’re in a super competitive market and don’t have the budget to break into the top three positions, stealthy Ads are good news. PPC becomes a no-brainer in that scenario – test keywords and see what actually converts into ROI.
Favicons in SERP
Google has introduced a small favicon next to website names, offering a nice, neat way of helping users differentiate between results. More recognisable brands could potentially see an improved CTR from this change as it becomes easier to identify a result from a familiar brand or company. We think this is a good UX change that rewards overall brand awareness and marketing efforts, not just SEO or PPC.
It’s worth noting that if you fail to upload images in the correct dimensions, you’ll either get no image or one that represents what the site’s built on, such as the WordPress logo. Therefore, it’s well worth uploading an image in the correct dimensions – something’s better than nothing.
Integrated organic image thumbnails
Last year (2022), Google began to drop in images within organic listings (not to be confused with Google’s image pack). The integrated images in organic are a type of featured snippet. For whatever reason, Google sees multiple relevant images on the landing page and the algorithm decides that showing them would be helpful to the user. This isn’t something you can set up precisely through mark up, you’d have to follow best practices to stand a chance.
Ensure your landing page has multiple tagged images (minimum of six) in a usable ratio. While there are no precise guidelines on how to achieve this result, our tests have found ecommerce websites seem to achieve it more often. Why? It could just be that category pages are ideally set up with multiple relevant images for Google to easily feature.
Image pack (shown above) is a featured set of images from Google’s image search. Achieving coverage there is similar to the above – follow best practices. Again, there’s no precise setup process for this – Google decides.
The above provides just a snapshot of the latest updates to SERP features, but there are plenty more result types available. The features you’re shown will entirely depend on the type of search you carry out, along with your individual user behaviour.
Some features you may see include:
FAQs – similar to a featured snippet, but usually hold positions further down the page and feature FAQs on any given subject, which expand when interacted with.
Featured Snippet – meant as a quick answer taken from a well-perceived piece of content.
Google Flights Block – a blend of paid and organic results, this is live information about flights, times, and costs.
Hotel Pack – similar to a local pack, but based solely around hotels and similar.
Images – a preview of the images featured on the image page of Google search.
Job Listings – a list of jobs pulled from popular job listing websites.
Knowledge Panel – to the right of the screen on desktop, these feature basic information on any entity. A search for an actor may return age, height, city of residence, and notable films, for example.
Local Pack – map listings and business information for geographical based searches.
People Also Ask – PAA refers to Google auto filling when typing out any particular query into Google.
Related Searches – a list of prompts related to the initial search, found at the bottom of the SERPs.
Reviews – star ratings assigned to products and services of businesses. Known to affect CTR and generated through markup.
Sitelinks – popular pages which Google pulls through to the SERPs below a website’s main result.
Top Stories – news results related to the search query carried out.
Twitter – if searching for a person or business, their most recent or relevant tweets can pull through to the SERPs.
Videos – Links to videos, often to a certain timestamp relevant to the search query.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into SERP features, here’s some further reading we’d recommend:
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Written by Andy McCaul
Co-founder and digital marketing guru Andy ensures all projects are shipshape, and that we generate the best return on investment for clients.